It’s a manager’s dream to step back and let her employees run through their day-to-day tasks without hiccups or questions, but this scenario is often not the case.
Problems arise, deadlines are missed, and the manager spends a great deal of time putting out fires. If this describes your daily role as a manger, it might be due to a lack of tools, or maybe a lack of skills among team members.
Follow this guide to ease your burden and create a more independent team.
Set Process Documents for Daily Tasks
One of the easiest ways to eliminate common questions is to set up process documents that cover various scenarios. Employees will learn the importance of turning to the document first, and only then come to you if the problem isn’t solved.
Managers want to know that their teams can work together if they’re away or in a meeting, and process docs can give new employees a comprehensive guide while the rest of the team fills in the gaps.
The team at Resilium explains it perfectly: “Having a clear and concise manual for each role in your business will mean training new staff will be a lot quicker and less stressful. Documented procedures also mean a team member can go on holidays or take sick leave without it heavily impacting on your business.”
Small Business Expert Denise O’Berry created a 10-step guide for building out process documents, from setting objectives to management reviews. She emphasizes the importance of writing everything down — especially if you plan to automate it in the future — so there’s a backup plan when something goes wrong.
“It’s not hard to document work processes, but it does take time,” she writes. “The time is well worth it though because it will help you determine if the processes are efficient or if there are steps that can be eliminated or changed.”
You might discover new ways of completing things that reduces the burden on your team. Further, these process documents will make sure your team is following basic compliance rules and regulations, and help your company avoid hot water from tax or regulatory authorities.
The authors behind Bizmanualz put it bluntly that process documents really do benefit both parties. “Let’s face it; if your organization is having trouble in performing the rudimentary function of obeying laws and regulations, then it is likely struggling even more at being effective and successful in fulfilling its core missions,” they write.
The act of creating a process doc aids in training, so don’t be afraid to delegate the creation of them to new employees so they can fully learn what they’re doing.
Create Opportunities for Employee Training
In a guest post for Poll Everywhere, Patricia Lotich of Thriving Small Business emphasizes that employee training isn’t something businesses can shirk if they want to stay relevant. “Keeping up with changing software programs, technology changes, customer service skills or leadership trends are examples of competitive advantages organizations can have with a well trained work force,” Lotich writes.
Any company that is still converting its team from paper to digital records knows the pain of belated training. Further, skipping training can increase your turnover rate as top employees leave for more interesting jobs.
Stephen Maclaren at Al Futtaim Willis explains that 40% of employees who don’t receive adequate training leave within a year; meanwhile, high turnover rates were one of the top reasons companies failed to invest in training at all.
The fact is one actually helps the other. “Comprehensive training programs have proven time and again to help lower staff turnover,” Maclaren says. “…We know that employees actively want to be trained, and doing so boosts morale and increases worker happiness.” More employee training and retention means you won’t have to use the process documents that you created as often as you planned.
Fortunately, you don’t have to have an expensive tuition reimbursement program or in-house training infrastructure to grow your employees’ knowledge bases. Jason Herman at Training Industry finds there are plenty of little opportunities to keep employees sharp. In fact, just letting an employee spend an hour or two at a luncheon or on a webinar improves his skills while demonstrating you care about his professional growth.
Not only does training improve retention through morale, but it also motivates the employee to become a leader within the company. According to staffing firm Robert Half, “If you’d like to be able to promote staff to managerial positions in the future, targeted training now can help you ensure your current workforce is prepared to move up.” This ensures a smooth transition when someone in management leaves, and gives our current employees a growth ladder — and a reason to stick around.
Communication Fosters Problem-Solving
Creating an environment of independent problem-solvers can become an uphill battle if there’s no communication. Your employees will either struggle on their own, or run to you for everything.
Nicole Fallon Taylor for Business News Daily identifies common communication breakdowns and how to solve them. One of this biggest problems Taylor points out is communication silos. “Silos occur when people in different roles of a business … focus only on their own objectives, and don’t collaborate with others who could provide them with a fresh perspective on the ‘big picture,'” she writes. A lack of collaboration means you’re the only person employees will turn to when there’s a problem instead of brainstorming a solution with peers and co-workers.
Peer-to-peer communication opens the door for micro-trainings throughout the day. Employees who communicate about their struggles or problems can brainstorm with others on how to solve them.
“Consider the wealth of information your staff may be privy to that you are not collecting currently,” Go2HR writes. “Any bit of feedback has the potential to make a huge difference in your bottom line.” So, the next time an employee or co-worker is griping about their assignments, use it as an opportunity to discover more effective processes.
Communication also aids in personal accountability. In his piece 10 Tips For Effective Employee Communication, Jeff Price, Vice President of Marketing at PrimePay, found communicating the big picture motivates employees to perform tasks that aren’t as exciting or seemingly impactful as major projects.
“Set objectives and assess whether you have met them,” Price says. “Ask employees whether the organization has communicated its strategy well. Do they understand how their daily work helps the organization meet its goals?” Most employees have felt like they’re doing busywork at some point or another, and this provides context to the big picture of the job.
Implement Strategic Delegating
By delegating tasks within your team, you’re empowering them to pick up the baton when you’re not around. However, so many managers delegate poorly that employees are left overwhelmed and reliant on their manager for help — which is the opposite of the desired results.
Steve Caldwell of Manager Mojo believes delegation isn’t just about removing items from your plate; it’s about identifying employee strengths and highlighting them with additional responsibilities. “Assign [your employees] what they are well-suited for, and take time to train them on the next step of what they need to learn,” Caldwell writes.
“Once they do that well, challenge them with the next aspect of that task, and so forth.” This enables them to fill your footsteps without passing off your busywork.
Once you’ve assigned the right tasks to the right people, it’s time to clarify the expectations and goals within the assignment. Scott Beaman at Fresh Business Thinking advises managers to set these quality-control goals and expectations for the task.
“It’s necessary to go a step further whereby you establish certain things, such as an expected standard of quality, an achievable deadline, a fair timeline for completion and of course, your overall expectations,” he writes. This can range from the average time it should take to complete a report to the number of times it’s processed and sent out.
David Dye of Lead Change Group admits delegating isn’t easy, and managers often fail to explain the process and goals behind a new assignment. To prevent this, he recommends seting up checks throughout the process and even months after the training to establish accountability.
“Don’t leave accountability to chance,” Dye writes. “No matter how responsible your people might be, if you don’t clearly define how the task or project will be returned to you, other work can get in the way.” This isn’t necessarily a negative reflection of the employee: They were prioritizing based on intuition instead of through your clear instructions.
Step Back and Let Your Employees Work
If you have followed the above steps but still find your employees clinging to you, it might be useful to get a bird’s-eye view of what’s going wrong.
In an article for QuickBase’s The Fast Track blog, author Alexandra Levit finds managers constantly complain to her that their direct reports require too much hand-holding. Often, this stems from insecurity.
“Tell your report that you hired him for a reason, and that you have complete faith in his ability to successfully complete the task,” Levit writes. “If he starts to freak out, tell him that no one ever died as a result of your company’s daily operations.” By emphasizing the confidence aspect and downplaying the risk, you’re showing your employees it’s OK to jump out of the nest.
If the problem isn’t your employees, then it might be you. Ashley Robinson at Snagajob admits how hard it is for managers to let go sometimes. They want employees to be independent, but aren’t ready to relinquish control.
“Ultimately, you are responsible for your business,” she says. “Setting up a system of checks and balances limits any potential areas of risk.” This means you should have the final approval or review before something is sent to the client — especially if it’s a major project or a sensitive discussion. Make sure it’s clear with your employees what they can do on their own, and what needs an additional set of eyes.
Once you foster an environment of independence, your employees will shine. In an article for Fortune, Ari Buchalter, President of Technology at MediaMath, describes how employee independence leads to creativity. Instead of turning to the boss for a solution or answer on how problems have been solved in the past, his teams brainstorm their own solutions and new ways to get work done.
“They are empowered to think creatively about the technology and business challenges before them and define and own the solutions,” Buchalter writes. “…In effect, they are designed to have the agility and speed of a startup, but with the resources and stability of an enterprise behind them.”
Along with giving your team the confidence and skills to succeed on their own, smart managers build an office of trust between employee and manager. You should trust your team to get their work done — on time and well — and they should trust you to provide instruction when needed. When both parties have trust, it’s easier to let go and become more independent.